Nigeria: Two More Du Merci Children Forcibly Relocated

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CSW UK Office
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CSW has been informed two more of the children who were seized during police raids on Du Merci orphanages in Nigeria’s Kano and Kaduna states in December 2019 have been forcibly relocated from the government-run Nasarawa Children’s Home in the Kano state capital to an orphanage in a remote area.

Three of the youngest Du Merci children were forcibly relocated from the same home earlier in the year.

Martha Tarfa, five, and Esther Tarfa, eight, were reportedly transferred to an orphanage in the rural Gaya area. CSW has also received confirmation that Mercy, Destiny and Emmanuel Tarfa, all aged four, were forcibly relocated to the same area on 18 January. Their names appear to have been changed to Amina, Ismaila, and Garba respectively, and CSW’s sources report that they appear “ill and emaciated.”

On 26 February, the trial of Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa , co-founder of the Du Merci orphanages, was adjourned once again until 1 April. The prosecution had intended to call three witnesses and had recently amended the charge against the professor to include one count of forgery with regard to a certificate the Du Merci Centre had obtained legitimately from the Kano state Ministry of Women’s Affairs. When the witnesses failed to appear once again, the state counsel rested his case for the defence to present its arguments. However, the Tarfa’s lawyer decided instead to file a motion for the case to be dismissed.

CSW Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “Once again two young children, who have already experienced discrimination and multiple rights violations, have been separated from their older siblings and transferred from an urban to a rural setting where they will no doubt struggle with the unfamiliar environment and a language barrier. The alleged renaming of the youngest children, who are reportedly in poor physical and mental condition, is particularly worrying, as it may indicate an ongoing attempt to coerce a change of religious belief. Given the paucity of the case against Professor Tarfa, it must now be clear to any unbiased observer that these children were removed from their home on exceedingly spurious grounds. We urge the Kano state authorities to ensure due process is observed, that the case is dismissed, and that the children are returned to the only parents they have ever known before they suffer further psychological harm.”

In other news, in Borno state, Rev Bulus Yikura the EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa Nigeria, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) church leader who was abducted on Christmas Eve by the original faction of the terrorist group Boko Haram, was freed on the evening of 3 March, presumably following payment of a ransom raised by the Chibok community.

The married father of three was seized after terrorists from the Shekau faction attacked his church in the Pemi Ward of Chibok Local Government Area (LGA), killing a chaplain, three boys and two others who were rehearsing for Christmas Day celebrations. The terrorists also set fire to the building and reportedly waited to ensure it burned to the ground before leaving.

In a video released last week Rev Yikura, dressed in orange and kneeling in front of a masked man with a dagger, had appealed to the president of his denomination, the government of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to “act fast” to save him, as he had been told he had until 4 March to live. On 2 March members of the Federal House of Representatives had urged the government to rescue Reverend Yikura before the deadline expired.

In January 2020 the Shekau faction executed the chair of CAN in Adamawa state, Reverend Lawan Andimi, even as ransom negotiations were ongoing.

Mr Thomas continued: “CSW is relieved to learn of the release of Reverend Yikura and wish him and his loved ones a swift and full recovery from this harrowing experience. The attack in which he was abducted highlights the need to ensure additional protection for houses of worship in vulnerable communities during religious celebrations. Coming so soon after the release of over 200 abducted schoolgirls in Zamfara state, Reverend Yikura’s plight also highlights the manner in which civilians across Nigeria are increasingly being commoditised by armed non-state actors as. This is unacceptable and must be addressed by the Nigerian government and security forces as a matter of utmost urgency. We call on members of the international community to raise this issue with Nigeria at every opportunity, including during discussions at the ongoing 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The crisis of insecurity in Nigeria cannot be allowed to continue, and neither can the international community’s woefully insufficient response to this existential threat to a regionally strategic nation."

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press and Public Affairs Team Leader at CSW on +44 (0)782 332 9663 or email [email protected] .

CSW is a human rights organisation specialising in freedom of religion or belief. We work on over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

nnedy Onyegbado is a Media and Research Expert, he writes from Abuja-Nigeria ([email protected])